Sunday, January 31, 2010

Interview with My First Earthquake and a warm-up Noise Pop show at Cafe du Nord on Wednesday

My First Earthquake jumps for joy for unicorns

I present to you one of my absolute favorite bands of San Francisco: My First Earthquake. I especially wanted to give them props because they donated all of the profits from their downloaded album in the month of January to the Haitian earthquake relief efforts. They will continue taking donations until this Friday February 5th. On Wednesday February 3rd My First Earthquake will be playing a FREE gig (if you RSVP) at Cafe de Nord as an official Noise Pop warm-up party and the 5th Anniversary of The Owl Magazine!

I sent over some random and silly questions just to see what Rebecca, Chad, Andre, and Dave would say, they did not disappoint.

Jamie: So what's your problem with hipsters anyway?
My First Earthquake: We haven't got a problem with them. They got a problem with us? What? Do they wanna fight us? We can take them.

J: How do you feel about the genre term I just coined called "dork rock'? Maybe "geek rock" is better?
MFE: I assume that you're referring to "dork rock" as being the type of music that hipsters listen to and not the music of My First Earthquake. Quite fitting.

J: If you could only wear one item of clothing on stage, what would it be?
Andre: Chain mail. No, wait... Mithril chain mail!!
Rebecca: The shiniest sequins.
Chad: My hyena eating a squid shirt.
David: Snakeskin boots.


Chasing the Moon and Seaweed Sway: featuring some of the best music of the Bay Area

The ladies of Honeycomb

My Friday night at Viracocha was full of lush harmonies, unique instrumentation and quirky folks. Named after an Incan God, Viracocha is a new basement performance space located next door to ATA (Artists’ Television Access) in the Mission. The showcase was co-presented by the video podcast Chasing the Moon and the blog SeaweedSway. Michael Musika and Honeycomb performed live sets and the most recent Chasing the Moon podcast was shown featuring Kacey Johansing. Kacey is a busy lady; she performed in both bands as well!

Local recording engineer Scott McDowell, videographer Elijah Pahati and producer Brian Berberich have been at the helm of Chasing the Moon since its start just over a year ago. The podcast has featured intimate performances from folks like Indianna Hale, Steve Taylor, John Vanderslice, Oona and Slow Motion Cowboys. The SeaweedSway is a local blog by Jessie Woletz, who also has a monthly showcase at the Makeout Room.

For more info: The SeaweedSway Chasing the Moon


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Music Never Left You: a repost from Kirk Hamilton's Murfins and Burglars

Reposted from SF musician and friend Kirk Hamilton's blog Murfins and Burglars. I know you're out there fellow musical friends and former classmates.


Things kind of suck right now, don’t they? It has become difficult, especially over these past few weeks, to shake the feeling that we are lying in the basin of some vast, vague ditch of malaise, frustration and crappiness – nationally, globally, but also individually. Everyone seems depressed, and not just because it’s January.

We’ll see if Mr. Obama can get up there tonight for his first State of the Union and make us feel better about things. I imagine that at the very least he’ll make those of us who support him feel a bit better about him, which should in turn make us feel a bit better about “things.” I doubt, however, that it’ll be the spiritual salve that I, at least, am craving.

But I think I know something that could be. I was browsing the Facebook statuses of my friends and fellow musicians when I saw a post by a San Francisco saxophonist I know, Bari Sax-man extraordinaire Doug Rowan, who shared the following:
Everyone that ever played a musical instrument and quit playing for some reason or another should pick it back up again and see what happens.
To which I say: YES. Doug, I love this. “Pick it back up again and see what happens.” Yes. Yes.

Right after seeing that (but unrelated to it), a singer friend of mine shared on my wall that she’d picked up her alto sax again after several years of not playing, and was loving it. And I realized: that’s it! We should go for it, we should turn that thought into some sort of unofficial national initiative.

People of the world!

Ex-band geeks, garage rockers! Dorm room strummers and lapsed fifth-grade recorder virtuosos!

Hear me, and heed the call! It is time to pick up your instruments once more!

Seriously, I am talking to YOU. Perhaps you played an instrument in your high school band, or banged on the bass in a garage punk group in college? Maybe you sang in the madrigals or were a marching band nerd? Did you rent-to-own a euphonium, or spend days learning scales on the xylophone? Is there an accordion moldering in a closet somewhere in your house?

If so, go dig that accordion up, dust of those drum cases, re-string that bass, have your folks ship out your old Squire. Find your old instrument and see if it still works, because I’ll bet it does. And more to the point, I’ll bet that you can still work it. Just place your hands on it and see what they remember. You just might surprise yourself.

And sure, you might be utter rubbish, you might give your cat a nervous breakdown. Playing again may remind you why the lip pain, sore fingers, and frustrating metronome bleeps made you stop in the first place. But maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize how much you loved music, how much you miss it, and you might start to play again. Find a teacher. Learn some new songs you like. Join a band.

I know this won’t solve anything tangible. It won’t get back any bailout money, or fix the California state budget, or re-hire all the amazing teachers who are going to be let go this year, to say nothing of what it won’t do for the suffering multitudes of the world.

But what it will do is something less quantifiable, perhaps smaller but no less grand – it might allow you to rediscover a part of yourself that you’d forgotten was even there.

You don’t have to sound “good.”

You don’t have to sound like anything at all.

Just give it a try. See what happens.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sleeveface: an awesome blog

I've noticed that has been getting more creative lately. I wanted to share some of my favorites with you.

Sleeveface: one or more persons obscuring or augmenting any part of their body or bodies with record sleeve(s) causing an illusion

Follow Sleeveface on twitter.

PBS's new music program "Sound Tracks" explores relevant music around the world

Some of the world’s best music has been created out of great passion and great struggle.

I was listening to Forum on KQED/NPR this morning driving my cat home from the vet and heard about an exciting new show that will air next Monday night at 10pm called "Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders." I didn't get to hear the whole report (a cat in a carrier is not a happy cat), but I am very excited about this show.

Producer Marco Werman and international correspondents Alexis Bloom, Arun Rath and Mirissa Neff have created a show that will take viewers on journeys of discovery from the bayous of Louisiana to the backstreets of Havana, from the nightclubs of Paris to desert music festivals in Mali. They'll interview everyone from Rock 'n Roll Hall of Famers to Bollywood singers, violin virtuosos to bluegrass musicians. It's not just good music they are looking for, but good stories behind the music.


Click here for the "Sound Tracks" official website

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Awesome musical moment: "Nicotine and Gravy" by Beck

You know those moments in a favorite song that you just want to play over and over and over again? And it NEVER gets old? I have favorite songs that never get old, but this is really more specific.

This particular moment has become a joke between my brother and me, and between other friends. Every time I hear it, it makes me happy.

Beck's Midnight Vultures from, 1999, (it's over 10 years old, WOW) has a fabulously silly, funky, energetic vibe all the way through it. It was my favorite CD to cook dinner to while I was living in a co-op in undergrad and now it's great for driving.

My favorite moment? At about 3 minutes in (on this youtube video) there's an instrumental breakdown and Beck screams something that you just can't make out, something like:

Ellaba, mugumweeeYEAAHHHHHH!!

check it out, click to 3 minutes in. Is he actually saying anything?

I know, it's ridiculous. I LOVE IT!

Makes me happy everytime.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Googling myself at 2:45 in the morning

So it's storming outside and I can't sleep. What am I doing? I'm googling myself. Well first I was googling this blog to see if it was mentioned anywhere that I didn't know of, and then I decided to search myself. And what did I find? Well other than this Jamie Freedman who's an M.D. I found that I'm on

Yup. Check it out.

I know the first two entries are indeed me because I was an intern for Smithsonian Folkways the non-profit record label of the U.S. National Museum in Washington D.C. from 2003-2004 between undergrad and grad school. During that time I worked with the archivists of the label. It was pretty awesome. I got to hang with all these old LPs and cassettes. I worked on a couple of commercial archival releases including Classic Folk Music and Classic Maritime Music as a Production Assistant. The folk complication included tunes by Doc Watson, Peggy Seeger, Paul Robeson and even the song "Gallis Pole" by Fred Gerlach which Led Zeppelin later covered. The Maritime compilation has a pre-Beach Boys "Sloop John B" and "All for Me Grog," which was my favorite.

How could I ever forget "All for Me Grog"?

And it's all for me grog, me jolly, jolly grog
All for me beer and tobacco
Well I spent all me tin on the lassies drinking gin
Across the western ocean I must wander
And here are two versions of "Gallis Pole"/"Gallows Pole."

Performed by Led Belly:

Led Zeppelin:

My part in the production of these compilations was basically making a big mix tape, which in retrospect is, well, the most perfect job ever. The main archivist gave me a list of songs that he was considering putting on the CD, and I had to scour the archive for all of the different versions of that song that it had. So I pulled recordings off of CDs, LPs, cassettes and actual reel-to-reel. There was a big switchboard thing involved and I remember getting frustrated with all those chords.

Interning for the label was pretty fun even though the interns were sort of treated like nobodies. I had all sorts of random projects to do. One other intern was archiving all these Woody Guthrie lyric sheets and sketches. That's where Billy Bragg and Wilco got the lyrics for their album Mermaid Avenue. Did you know Guthrie sketched erotic images? Yeah, he did. I've seen 'em. He was kind of party animal.

Alright, that's it. I'm going back to bed. Don't be bashful, googling yourself can be fun, you'll never know what you'll find. Have you done it? What have you found?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hanging out with Julia Nunes at In-N-Out and her show at the Swedish American Hall

Julia and I prepare for Animal Style awesomeness

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Julia Nunes play live at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco. Since I showed up with Jack Conte of Pomplamoose, I got to meet her backstage before the show. This East Coaster told me that she had never been to In-N-Out before, so I offered to take her after her show. Like I NEED and excuse to get to In-N-Out. I know I've lived back on the West Coast for two-and-a-half-years, but it's still a novelty.

The show was so fun. Julia's stage banter, like her online humor, is very self deprecating. When seeing her sing live you really get to hear the power of her voice. Her songs are pretty straight up pop songs played on the guitar (which she has decorated with black sharpie marker and blue guitar strings) and two different ukuleles. I really enjoyed her random stories about meeting strange characters at the airport and witnessing her first rate beat boxing (but she might want to not quit the uke, *wink*).

Julia is the #27th most subscribed to musician on youtube and has some of the most loyal enthusiastic fans out there. After getting rockstar parking right outside the Swedish American Hall a good hour and 45 minutes before the opening band was supposed to go on, I spotted three fans hanging out on the sidewalk playing cards on the cold Market Street sidewalk. Yup, they were Julia Nunes fans and they wanted front row seats.

Julia has just released a new EP called "I Think You Know" and it was produced by Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn of Pomplamoose. I was playing it in the car on the way home last night and just couldn't get enough of the vocal harmonies of "Through the Floorboards." Theses songs have got Nataly Dawn's vocal arrangements written all over them. They are just gorgeous. I also love the song titled "Grown a Pair" written about a guy one of Julia's friends was dating.

If you are somewhat in the dark about what this youtube-musician thing is, check out the videos below. Julia makes them in her dorm room with her college friends. These two are pretty special, as most of them are just her and her uke in front of the computer. But these two are way more intricate. Watch her silly banter after the song is over. This video of "Binoculars" consists of video she asked her fans to send in which she edited together.

Julia is heading up to Seattle tomorrow and then to Minneapolis and Chicago.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, always with good music

Every year we Americans have a three day weekend, perfectly timed three weeks into a new year that is probably already beating us up. This is a day to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, a man who gave his life for freedoms many of us enjoy now in the 21st Century.

Do not be mistaken: this day is also a reminder of how far we still have to go. It doesn't matter your color or creed, we are still all affected by those who have freedoms and those who do not.

If you are in the mood to celebrate this day, there are dozens of events going on around the Bay Area. Most of them will include music, lots of music. Gospel, jazz, R&B, rock and roll. Anything having to do with MLK usually gets me emotional, gospel music does as well. So I'd better get ready for some waterworks.


If you are not in the Bay Area, just do a google search for Martin Luther King and your area and you'll find something. Or check this website.

THE WHITE HOUSE IS CALLING THIS MLK DAY, A DAY OF SERVICE. CLICK HERE FOR IDEAS ON HOW TO GET INVOLVED (there are events listed here associated with helping Haiti)

Mahalia Jackson "We Shall Overcome" - This song was a staple of the civil rights movement, Mahalia worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Introducing The Hello Strangers: The Chace sisters with some sweet attitude

I love these photos by Ryan Smith: Brechyn and Larissa Chace

The music of The Hello Strangers takes me into another decade, maybe into a black and white movie set in the Appalachians or Hill Country of Texas, where the women are tough and passionate. It's spooky, got some gorgeous harmonies and just the right amount of twang.

Sisters Brechyn (Breh-ken) Chace and Larissa Chace Smith started writing tunes together in South Austin after Larissa completed her Master's degree in Ethnomusicology at The University of Texas (that's where I met her). Soon, however, the mountains of their Central Pennsylvania home beckoned the sisters North. So they packed up their lives, dogs, and Larissa’s husband, and drove to their two-stoplight hometown of Mercersburg (factoid: birthplace to President Buchanan). In Pennsylvania the sisters were joined by Dave Holzwarth (bass), Kevin Shannon (guitar), and Katie O’Neil (drums) to fill out the sound into a full on rock band.

With songs titled "Pregnant in Jail," (supposedly based on a true story, that's something I have to remember to ask about) "Oh He'll Drown," and "Poor Dear," I wonder where the Chace sisters get their inspiration. I mean REALLY get their inspiration. I know Larissa's husband. I was at their wedding, he's a sweetheart. It seems that the local lore of Pennsylvania, Texas and good ol' country music steeped into their creative consciousness.

The musical influence of folks like
Neko Case, Lucinda Williams, Johnny Cash, Conor Oberst and The Weary Boys is evident. But so is the rich musical traditions of Austin, Texas. It's the voices and vocal harmonies of Brechyn and Larissa that really make this band for me. I can't tell them apart and it sort of freaks me out!

I'm looking forward to hearing the full-length album when it comes out sometime in the next couple months. Until then, check out their EP "Introducing Max Schmidt." And if you're in the Pennsylvania/Maryland area, The Hello Strangers are playing a bunch of gigs you can check out:

Jan 15 2010 7PM - The Ragged Edge Coffee House Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Jan 23 2010 8:30PM - Hempen Hill BBQ Bar & Grill Hagerstown, Maryland

Feb 13 2010 9PM - The Broad Axe Hagerstown, Maryland

Feb 19 2010 9PM - The Local Beat: Millennium Music Conference New Cumberland, Pennsylvania

Feb 26 2010 8PM - Unique Bar and Grill Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania

Apr 2 2010 8PM - Hempen Hill BBQ Bar & Grill Hagerstown, Maryland

May 8 2010 9PM - The Broad Axe Hagerstown, Maryland

Jul 31 2010 9PM - The Broad Axe Hagerstown, Maryland

Sep 18 2010 8:30P - Hempen Hill BBQ Bar & Grill Hagerstown, Maryland

You can take the girls out of Texas but you can't take Texas out of the girls

"Poor Dear" by The Hello Strangers

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The two songs from the Bollywood '3 Idiots' I just can't get out of my head

So my friend Kim was in town last weekend doing some research for her dissertation and wanted to see 3 Idiots, and I was happy to go again. It was just as enjoyable as the first time.

These are the two songs that I just can't get out of my head, thanks a lot Kim for posting them as your facebook status...

I can imagine that if you haven't seen this movie, these scenes are going to be completely out of context and totally bizarre. So read here for my review of the movie.

"Zoobi Doobi" - this is a dream sequence - obviously - Rancho (Amir Khan) and Pia (Kareena Kapoor) are falling in love. Some of it takes place at a wedding because they met for the first time at Pia's sister's wedding, which Rancho crashed.

and "Aal Izz Well" - Rancho and his college buddies sing about tricking your heart into thinking all will be good when fear comes, that way you'll have the courage to take it on. Enjoy the soaped up guys. And the toilet shots. HA. so funny.

Yes, it is totally silly, but that's what I love about Bollywood. I love the silly and ridiculousness.

And now you understand this picture.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Dengue Fever and the rebirth of Cambodian rock'n'roll

I interviewed Farfisa (keys) player Ethan Holtzman for this story, he's on the left.

Dengue Fever is not just another band from Los Angeles passing through the Bay Area Friday night (they were an answer on Jepordy the other night!). They are carriers and interpreters of an art form from another time, place and represent a community of musicians who died for making that art. I don’t think that they look at themselves that way and I know that sounds a little dramatic, but hear me out:

Dengue Fever plays covers as well as their own tunes, inspired by Cambodian rock popular in the 60s and 70s. On January 10th, Minky Records will release Dengue Fever Presents Electric Cambodia, 14-track collection of vintage recordings popular during that era, featuring musicians such as Sinn Sisamouth, Pan Ron, Ros Sereysothea and Dara Chom Cha. Proceeds of this record will donated to Cambodian Living Arts, an organization devoted to supporting the revival of traditional Khmer performing arts and inspiring contemporary artistic expression. The organization was featured in the documentary Sleepwalking Through the Mekong about Dengue Fever’s visit to Cambodia. Dengue Fever wants to give back to the community that inspire their music.

To Read the rest of my article click here

This is "One Thousand Tears Of A Tarantula" - Metallica's Kirk Hammett named this song his 2nd favorite song of the 2000s in Rolling Stone's Best of the Decade poll.

My band: Leopard Print Tank Top

Our first gig: me, Elisabeth & Joie

So, um, I have this band called Leopard Print Tank Top and we had a really great gig tonight that made me realize that I should tell you all about it so that I can feel like it's a real thing that I'm doing.

I play the glochenspiel, sing and play whatever other instruments are lying around. Elisabeth, who I've been singing with since I was five years old, sings and plays the ukulele. Our friend Joie belly dances.

This is the description we sent in for tonight's gig -

Leopard Print Tank Top is a San Francisco based trio that proudly embraces the ridiculous. LPTT's quirky instrumentation of ukulele and glockenspiel combine with vocal harmony, belly-dance and lighthearted theatrics. Their playful approach to performance is beautiful, mesmerizing, and utterly silly.

So the first step in becoming official is that I MADE A FAN PAGE ON FACEBOOK! Please "fan" us if you want to hear about upcoming gigs and whatever else bands do on that there web thingie.

We write our own stuff mostly: "Lullabye" sounds like something out of Coraline or Amelie, "Lovership" is about wanting a relationship both ways, "Boobies" is, well, about boobies. We also just wrote a song called "Missed Connections" inspired by craigslist. It's fun.

The best parts? I get to make music with my friends, we make people laugh and the boys love us. What more could a girl ask for?

We'll see where this goes!

Liz and I used to make couch pillow forts together

Monday, January 4, 2010

Movie review: Aamir Khan stars in "3 Idiots": a Indian film about making your passion your work

3 Idiots ad in the lobby of the the Naz8 in Fremont, California

"Chase excellence and success will follow." That is the lesson of the new Indian film 3 idiots.

You know when Aamir Khan takes on a project, it's going to have some sort of social lesson. He has tackled British rule over Colonial India in the Oscar nominated Lagaan: Once upon a time in India and primary education of children with learning disabilities in Taare Zameen Par (Every Child Is Special) in which he starred and directed. Now Khan takes on higher education in India, a factory that churns out engineers, doctors and student suicide.

If you have never seen a Bollywood movie before, but enjoyed Slumdog Millionaire (which was largely a British film), this is an excellent first Indian film for viewers used to Hollywood's style. 3 idiots is huge already and I'm sure you're going to start hearing about it. It will be the first ever officially released film on youtube (12 weeks after opening, so around the middle of March) and it is Bollywood's biggest blockbuster with the biggest opening of all time

On the way home last night, my friend, who was born and educated in India expressed to me how much this movie hit home for him. To get ahead of the herd in India, students are pressured by their families to study to be engineers and doctors so that they can make a lot of money, marry and live in a big house. What if you aren't even good at engineering? What if you want to be a photographer?

Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so. Americans can learn from this message as well.